We've said it before and we'll say it again: Canonical may have all but given up the fight to ship Ubuntu on consumer PCs in the United States, at least for now, but it remains staunchly committed to forging strong relationships with hardware manufacturers. The company's latest effort in this vein is a new Web portal catered to that group -- which is also a significant example of how Canonical is reconfiguring the way people find information about Ubuntu. Read on for details.
Announced Dec. 9, 2011, the new portal -- odm.ubuntu.com -- is billed as Canonical's compilation of the best resources for hardware manufacturers (OEMs) and designers (ODMs) produced by the Ubuntu community:
The odm.ubuntu.com portal content is a selection of the best articles in the Ubuntu community sites that are relevant to device manufacturers (OEM and ODMs) engineers. The content has been selected by the Canonical Hardware Enablement team and builds on the good work of the Ubuntu Kernel team.At the moment the site remains pretty minimal, comprised mostly of about two dozen links to various articles on the official Ubuntu wiki or community-contributed documentation. There's also an announcement about the recent Ubuntu Hardware Summit in Taiwan. That news is now a bit past date, but I suppose knowing about the summit might be useful to some OEMs/ODMs out there.
Bringing Order to the Ubuntu Documentation UniverseCanonical's new Web portal underlines the company's intense efforts to build ever stronger relationships with hardware manufacturers and designers. It will take more than a website to assure Ubuntu's prevalence in that channel, but this initiative certainly won't hurt.
To me, however, what's even more interesting to note about the new portal -- and similar projects introduced in recent months, such as developer.ubuntu.com -- is its role in establishing a centralized, officially sanctioned knowledge base for Ubuntu.
Traditionally Ubuntu, like most open source projects, has relied to a huge extent on community volunteers for support and documentation. Sites including ubuntuforums.org and askubuntu.com, which are run by independent parties, have been high on the list of go-to places for Ubuntu users and even developers looking for information. Documentation contributed by community members on help.ubuntu.com/community also offers expansive information on topics Canonical employees would never have time to write up themselves in such detail.
And while community contributions are great for a number of reasons -- in particular, they provide extensive documentation on the cheap and allow users to give back to the community -- they also can come up short, especially for people interested in highly serious stuff, such as designing hardware devices for Ubuntu. A wiki page written by an anonymous weekend hacker, containing information that may or may not be totally accurate, grammatically sound and up-to-date, will not cut it for everyone.
It would appear, then, that Canonical is seeking to use these Web portals to leverage the resources of the Ubuntu community in a way that will work even for those interested in doing business with the operating system. And to the company's credit, it's taking an approach that doesn't snub or marginalize the rich collection of material that community volunteers continue to contribute; instead, Canonical employees are simply giving their stamp of approval to the best information out there, and combining it with a few of their own in-house resources. That's the open source ecosystem at its best.
By the way, ubuntuforums.org, which began as an independent project, is now owned and supported by Canonical, but as far as I'm aware no Canonical employee is directly involved in the site's day-to-day affairs. Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I'm a member of the Ubuntu Forums staff.